Published on September 17, 2015

Understanding Prostate Cancer

Did you know that prostate cancer is the 2nd most common cancer among men? According to the American Cancer Society, skin cancer is the first, but the thing about prostate cancer is that it can often be treated successfully. In fact, more than 2 million men in the United States count themselves as prostate cancer survivors.

With September being Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, we decided to visit with Dr. Damon Dyche, a urologist at McFarland Clinic, to learn more about the prostate and prostate cancer.

Q: What exactly is the prostate and what does it do?
A: The prostate is a small gland that is part of the male reproductive system. It sits just below the bladder and surrounds part of the urethra, which carries urine from the bladder. The prostate helps make semen, which supports the sperm during ejaculation.

Q: We often hear about men having enlarged prostates. Does that predispose them to prostate cancer?
A: Not at all. The prostate starts out about the size of a walnut and as a man ages it can grow larger. In fact, most men over 50 have an enlarged prostate.

Q: What are the recommendations for having the prostate checked?
A: The guidelines continue to evolve, but currently a prostate exam and a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test are recommended for men ages 55-70. They are also recommended for men with other risk factors regardless of age, such as a family history of prostate cancer.

Q: How is prostate cancer detected?
A: Prostate-specific antigen (PSA) is a substance made by cells in the prostate. A blood test is done to detect the level of PSA in the blood. If this number is elevated, or a prostate exam finds something abnormal, a prostate biopsy is performed to see if cancer is present.

Q: What is the prognosis for someone with prostate cancer?
A: Typically the prognosis is very good. Some prostate cancers can be aggressive and grow quickly, but most are slow-growing and are diagnosed so late in life that no treatment is necessary. In fact, some studies have shown older men who have passed away from other causes also had prostate cancer that never affected them.

Q: It seems as though prostate cancer has become more prevalent. Is that really the case, or do we just have better tools to detect it?
A: Prostate cancer has always been very prevalent. The difference is that after the PSA screening test was created in 1986, it became much easier to diagnose it.

If you, or someone you know, are experiencing any of the symptoms below, make an appointment with a primary care physician.

  • Not being able to urinate at all.
  • Having a hard time starting or stopping the flow of urine. 
  • Having to urinate often, especially at night. 
  • Having pain or burning during urination. 
  • Difficulty having an erection.
  • Blood in your urine or semen. 
  • Deep and frequent pain in your lower back, belly, hips or pelvis. 

To learn more about prostate cancer, visit our Interactive Health Library.

About the Author

Stephanie MarsauStephanie is the Marketing Communications Coordinator at Mary Greeley Medical Center. A blogger for several years, Stephanie's goal is to present health information in an entertaining, but helpful way.

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